Real Aunties Day, March 8

Real Aunties Day on March 8 celebrates more than your parents’ siblings and genealogy. This holiday provides an organic way to bring all the realness together, especially for Black, Brown, and Tan families and communities. We know that real aunties defy pronouns, are chosen kinfolk, sometimes biological, and some are ancestors. Aunties do the work in real life, physically, spiritually, and emotionally that deserve appreciation. We intentionally set March 8, International Women’s Day, which honors women’s hard work, as Real Aunties Day. March is Women’s History Month, a perfect time to remember aunts!

Cultural nuances about kinships, identity, and the intersectionalities of race, gender, and age are key to understanding how this holiday differs from other family holidays. Our family concept here expands the Euro-Anglo nuclear structure. We embrace Diasporan, global traditions where family is the community, and everyone is your kin. Real aunties are there for us with love, support, fun, and laughter. They bring a secret sauce that holds our communities together. Some aunts drive us crazy. Some aunts are trustworthy and are our go-to people. And best of all, aunts love being aunties!

#RealAuntiesDay History

This holiday was created in 2017 by Sylvia Wong Lewis as part of Auntyland, a media platform that centers on women and girls of color and explores multicultural aunt traditions through stories and events. Lewis believes that aunts are the most under-appreciated women globally, especially single women and those who did not birth children of their own. Aunts are expected to fill in the gaps with time, energy, and support. Most aunts enjoy and love the central role that they play in families and communities.

“This holiday is about decolonizing national holidays. We’re here to affirm. This is a reclamation! We want everyone to take one day, March 8 or the whole month of March, to pause, recognize, and show appreciation for all the hard work that aunties do,” said Lewis.

Lewis is grateful for her aunties, most of whom were Southerners, Caribbean, Black, Asian, Indigenous, Latinx, women in her Chinese, West Indian, Creole BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) Mississippi, Louisiana, Harlem, and Brooklyn family and community. Lewis credits her aunties with positive guidance and intervention at pivotal times in her life.

“My aunties helped me to achieve, recover, and thrive in many areas of my life. Creating this holiday is a way to say Thank you and ask the world to join us in giving a global shout-out to real aunties,” said Lewis, a proud auntie.

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The New Jemima by Joe Overstreet, 1964, 1970, acrylic on fabric over plywood.

Don’t Call Me Auntie!

“I ain’t none of your damn auntie. I ain’t no kin to you. My name is Alice Caldwell Smith…You see how black I am. I am not your aunt. Don’t call me aunt,” said noted poet Lucille Clifton on what Aunt Jemima would have said to people who called her out of her name.

“Well, in line with my thinking about names, I was thinking about those names that we hold dear, and we take for granted. These are in their voices, and I do voices I think pretty well. Or well enough, at any rate. This is called Aunt Jemima. She is speaking,” said Clifton during an interview with Significant Poets (1).

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My Salvadoran Aunts

If someone asked me how many aunts I have, I probably wouldn’t get the number right—there are just so many of them. After consulting with my mom, however, I have confirmed that I have eight aunts in total. Four are my mom’s sisters and four are my dad’s sisters. Two are in Los Angeles, CA, one is in Cottage Grove, Oregon, and five are in Santa Ana, El Salvador. Those five I haven’t seen since the last time I visited my parent’s home country, which was in 2010 when I was 12 years old.

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Harriet Tubman Monuments

Harriet Tubman was America’s most fierce freedom fighter. She is our ultimate ‘Auntie’! “Aunt Harriet taught us courage and endurance,” said her own descendants who live today. She rose from brutal slavery to emancipate herself and countless others. That’s why we give tribute to Harriet Tubman.

Did you know that in Auburn, New York there is a 47-year-old tradition called the Harriet Tubman Pilgrimage? Visitors from across the globe visit Harriet’s gravesite in Fort Hill Cemetery in honor of her life and commitment to the freedom of African Americans.

This is just one among the many monuments to Harriet that can be found throughout the United States and Canada, almost mimicking her Underground Railroad routes. The monuments, which range from visitor centers to statues, where she is often depicted with a pistol at her waist or with a book in hand, are found mostly in the Northeast and Midwest but can be found in cities and communities throughout the U.S and Canada.

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Haitian pride and respect

Auntie Carmen Michel, in pink, with her sisters Viana & Martina.
By Yansi Murga

Carmen Michel is a Haitian auntie living in Queens, NY who loves cooking, traveling, and listening to Haitian folk and jazz music. She was the third of five children: two brothers, and three sisters, all of whom grew up in Jacmel, Haiti. Despite growing up there, she was the only one of the five who was not born in Jacmel. While her mother was pregnant with her, she went to visit her sickly mother (Michel’s grandmother) in a village called Decouze when suddenly she went into labor and gave birth to Michel. Although Michel is proud of her training as a teacher and nurse, she believes there is more respect to the roles that ‘aunties’ play in Haitian communities.

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